About 82 tests have been identified as inaccurate.
“It was determined that since January 2009, a number of blood alcohol content tests conducted by the Forensic Chemist Unit of the Metro Crime Lab had been erroneously reported higher than the true actual result, police spokesman Lt. David Whitlock said in a statement released this morning.
“During that same time frame, a total of about 1,000 blood alcohol content tests were accomplished by Metro Crime Lab Staff,” Whitlock said, adding that all the samples are being re-analyzed.
The Colorado Bureau of Investigations sent a representative to conduct an external and independent investigation into the possible causes of the inaccurate readings. The Colorado Springs Police Department is also simultaneously conducting an Internal Affairs investigation. In addition, the manufacturer of the device used for blood alcohol analysis, Agilent Technologies, has checked the specifications of the involved equipment and ruled out problems with the instrumentation.
DUI Attorney Timothy Bussey said that these revelations might have a substantial effect upon DUI prosecutions.
“For individuals who have been convicted, or pled guilty on the basis of the results from the chemical test, these revelations may have exculpatory value,” he said.
Bussey agreed that defense attorneys will likely seize upon the news.
“Eighty-two out of 1,000 – that’s more than eight percent. Imagine if I tell you that I can get you a ticket to Europe on a reputable airline for a thousand bucks or you can fly Wing & a Prayer Airlines for $100 – but the catch is that you won’t make it there 8 percent of the time. And who knows what the number will be when they’re finished? 83? 183?”
Attorney Dave Webster, a partner in the firm of Jaray and Webster, agrees that the BAC errors may have a substantial impact.
“Right now, I’m re-analyzing every one of our cases to determine how (the news) might impact them,” he said. “This opens a big can of worms. How did this happen? The state re-certified the Metro Crime Lab, so what exactly is going on there? Coming after the snafu with evidence storage a few years ago, it’s fair to ask what’s happening.”
While admitting that it regrets the situation, the Colorado Springs Police Department defended the credibility and professionalism of the Crime Lab.
“The Metro Crime Lab is accredited to an international standard, and is certified for Blood Alcohol Analysis by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment,” Whitlock said. “It is very important to recognize that these errors were identified because of the checks and balances of the Metro Crime Lab’s Quality Assurance Program.”
Whitlock said that both the DA’s office and the Colorado Department of Revenue were immediately notified of the problem.
“Both of these agencies have since received amended lab reports,” he said, “and are researching what impact, if any, these findings have on criminal charges as well as civil revocations of drivers’ licenses. Every amended lab report sent to the District Attorney’s office has been made available in discovery. Both of these agencies are fully supportive that corrective actions are being implemented.”
The district attorney’s office did not return telephone calls for comment.